Words by Andrew Ryan Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor is the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which airs Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30pm ET on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis. On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to it’s modern incarnations. Past episodes are archived online.
It goes without saying, 2020 has been a fucked up year. Every major or minor moment (are there minor moments at this point, though?) is nothing you could expect, but we seem to be at the point where they don’t even phase us anymore. But still, what a fucking ride it’s been. One of the more recent surreal moments has been the shut down of Burger Records, a prominent label in the Garage/Psych rock world. Due to some pretty abhorrent behavior by the staff (and even some of the bands) towards women (many of them underage, so let’s not mince words, children), the main staff stepped down. There was an attempt to rebrand the label under new leadership, but that quickly fell flat and the label eventually dissolved for good. This is clearly another case of the consequences of one’s actions finally biting them in the ass. It’s just a bit more disheartening that it happens in the independent music world. A scene that operates on ideas of community and inclusion, you would think this kind of shit wouldn’t happen. Well, you’d be wrong. People can apparently be pieces of shit no matter what. And this surge of comeuppances is long overdue. And I’m sure there are more to come.
Last month’s check in featured bands in the more heavy realm of the psych rock world. This time around, we’re diving into more fuzzy, laid-back, almost shoegazey territory. It wasn’t intentional, as I tried to explain to my editor, it just kind of timed out that way. We’ll start with the debut album from Venus Furs. Montreal musician Paul Kasner has spent years crafting his sound and eventually seeing what it would become. And while the self-described “perfectionist” may not have made a “perfect” record, this comes pretty goddamn close. Elements of psych, garage and fuzz all swirl together in an almost Ty Segall-like fashion and make quite the beautiful concoction. The first two tracks “Chaos and Confusion” and “Friendly Fire” give you the best indication of what you’re in for. After that, just ease in and let it take you the rest of the way.
It’s pretty obvious that for all his usual fondness for the noise, Purling Hiss frontman Mike Polizze obviously knows the best way to make an acoustic album: make one with Kurt fucking Vile! Make no mistake, Long Lost Solace Find (on Paradise of Bachelors) is most definitely Polizze’s record. There are hints of Vile’s influence (most notably him playing the trumpet on “Revelation”), but in more of a mentoring role. Both being Philly natives, the camaraderie shines through. Throughout this record, you get the idea that this record was a challenge for Polizze to make, with almost only acoustic guitars and the lack of layers of sound pummeling through your ears. But there’s a feeling of triumph from the start of lead off track “Bainmarie.” As if this comes just as naturally as anything else he’s done.
The next handful of releases are short and sweet. Meaning they each clock in at 30 minutes or less. Canadian and Aboriginal artist Daniel Monkman’s debut album for Paper Bag Records under the name Zoon is as spiritual an experience as you’d expect. The band’s name comes from the word Zoongide’ewin which in Ojibway means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit.” Each song on the LP Bleached Wavves feels like an intense meditation, which given Monkman’s tumultuous life leading up to forming Zoon, gives one an appreciation for music’s ability to heal. There are the instantly recognizable influences of Slowdive and Brian Jonestown Massacre, and yet songs like “Was & Always Will Be” and “Infinite Horizons” have a peaceful and hypnotic vibe that will transport you into another place, giving your mind the space it may need to process all the shit that surrounds us lately.
Miguel Gallego brings us a brief slice of psych, dream-pop awesomeness with the debut full length (albeit 26 minutes) from Miserable Chillers on Baby Blue. The album title, Audience Of Summer, seems pretty appropriate. It’s great seeing new records come out this summer and that artists aren’t letting the pandemic/quarantine interfere with their creative process. And yet, listening is the most we can expect from a musical experience right now. But, it’s an experience that’s quite mesmerizing. There’s a very laid-back, chill vibe to this record, similar to Real Estate but a bit more….wobbly I guess. There’s a bit more playing with each sound here. The guitars and synths ebb and flow and the songs flow into each other in a way that just sweeps you away.
Finally, for their self-titled debut album (on Artist Formula), Charleston-based Dead Swells have brought a nice little portion of melodic psych pop too. At just under half an hour (because most of the songs are actually pretty short for psych music), they certainly channel the best parts of Tame Impala (without as much of the funky disco influence). It has a more straightforward feel to it, which works in their favor as it gives them something to set them apart from the aforementioned influence. “Out Of The Window” carries the ebb and flow of a relationship both lyrically and musically. There are ups and there are downs, or there are the possibilities of downs which can almost cause more anguish than actual downs. And the band acts this out perfectly.
With the recent celebration of the anniversary of Pink Floyd’s debut Piper at The Gates of Dawn (released August 4, 1967), I plan to do a deep discography dive into the work of the true pioneers of psychedelic music. And beyond all the classic rock favorites, even though there are some freaky gems there too. Quarantines seem to be perfect opportunities for these types of discoveries. Future installments will have highlights from that dive, in addition to all the great new stuff that’s coming down the pike.